Hidden Treasure of Son Bhandar Caves

According to local legend, King Bimbisar’s immense treasure was safely hidden within the Son Bhandar Caves' walls and can only be accessed by a secret passages when his son Ajatashatru usurped his throne. The name of the cave itself translates as gold from ‘son’ with ‘bhandar’ meaning a storehouse – also known as the Gold Cave. The existence of secret passages is unconfirmed, and if such a thing exists, may have belonged to an ancient king, either Jarasandha or Bimbisara. The secret passage is said to be going through the Vaibhagiri mountain and would reach the Saptapami caves on the opposite side of the mountain ranges. 

The Son Bhandar caves which located in the town of Rajgir, Bihar are two rock cut caves at the foot of the Vaibhar Hills. The caves were hollowed in the cliff of the hill during the 3rd and 4th century AD.

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/18/Son_Bhandar_cave_outside.jpg/1280px-Son_Bhandar_cave_outside.jpg

The caves are generally dated to the 3rd or 4th century CE, based on the dedicatory inscription found in the largest cave which uses Gupta script of the 4th century CE, although some authors have suggested the caves could actually go back to the period of the Maurya empire from 319 to 180 BCE. The main cave is rectangular with a pointed ceiling, and the entrance is trapezoidal, reminiscent of the structure of the Barabar Caves (the first artificial caves of India, dated the 3rd century BCE). 

According to the legend, the door to the treasury will open when the right password is uttered. There are still ambiguous inscriptions in the caves, and it is believed that they could hold the key. Inscriptions found inside one of the caves narrates that the caves were constructed by the Jain saint Muni Vairadevi as an abode for the Jain ascetics during that time.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/Son_Bhandar_cave_inscription.jpg


The inscription on the rock, when translated, reads as follow: 

"Muni Vairadeva, the jewel among the acaryas and of great lustre, caused to be made the two auspicious caves which are worthy of ascetics and in which were placed the images of arhats (ie tirthankaras) "

According to Gupta, however, this inscription may be ambiguous and, for him, might only mean that the cave was the subject of re-development work at that time. 

Several attempts have been made to find the ‘supposedly’ hidden treasure but in vain. The legend of the Son Bhandar Caves had attracted the attention of the Mughals at a certain point of time. The Mughal army searched the two caves inch by inch and found absolutely nothing. No doorway, no treasure. 

After that the British came, a British Archaeological Surveyor of India, Cunningham, did some serious investigation and after a detailed historical research, he mentioned in a report that these caves are related to Buddhism. 

They did not care about the 1500-year old rock cut caves that are otherwise also a religious heritage. To lay hands on the hidden treasure, they brought cannons and decided to tear the whole place down. Armed with modern machines, nothing would stop them to obtain the treasure. In fact, once officials from the British government tried to blow the walls of the cave with strong explosives but could not succeed. All these happenings have only intensified the mystery around these caves .

Sources:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_Bhandar_Caves
  • https://www.nativeplanet.com/travel-guide/the-mysterious-caves-of-son-bhandar-003634.html
  • https://halfsamosa.in/son-bhandar-caves/
  • https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/son-bhandar-caves
  • https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/on-a-treasure-hunt-in-the-son-bhandar-caves-of-bihar/as65200298.cms

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